Knowing Who YOU Are

Do you know who you are? This is the key question for a believer. It is the question we need to ask to start down the road of self-discovery. It is the start of self-discovery, removing the mask, and being real – thus no longer hiding behind convention, compromises, contingencies, and coded conduct.

In discovering who you really are you can then unveil and reveal the “you” that God created without all the whitewash of society and culture; without the curtain of pain and deep hurts; without the mask of pretend. You can be the “you” God created and Jesus died for on the Cross of Calvary. You will find such comfort, stability, and security in knowing and accepting who you are and understanding that this is the “you” Jesus loves, accepts and forgives … that you will be who you are regardless of who does not like you or rejects you. There is such freedom and strength in this.

Only if you stand strong in the strength of who you are can you let others be who they are and you be free to accept others as they are without judgment. Without strong roots into your basic nature and personality, our faces can quickly become farces. Oscar Wilde wrote sarcastically, “The first duty in life is to be as artificial as possible. What the second duty is no one has yet discovered.”

God is a God of infinite variety. And each of us has been created different than all others – unique. And, unless we go on this journey of self-discovery we will miss one of God’s great wonders – you! But beware – the Church and believers are not always happy when you become you. The Church, which opposes biological cloning, practices spiritual cloning with relish and finese. The Church, for some reason, attempts to make all of its people look, talk, think, and worship alike. And, to fight this trend is like swimming upstream against the current. However, in my mind, this is far better than running with the pack although there is certainly a price to be paid personally if you should so choose.

I like what Leonard Sweet wrote. “God created wach one of our faces an original. God made each of us a classic. Life’s biggest question is this: Will you have enough class to become a classic, the classic God made you? Will you live inside your own life, or will you look on from the sidelines? Will you allow God to be God in You?”

I would add – and will you allow you to be you – the real you? Only you can decide.

In Spite Of Ourselves Jesus Reveals Himself

Paul the apostle states that we have this treasure (Gospel) in earthen vessels (human beings). That God has chosen the weak and the foolish (that’s us) to spread the Gospel. I am glad that He did as that means I can have a part in this divine plan. I don’t need to be perfect – just forgiven. I don’t need to be intelligent – just born again so that I can have the wisdom of God. I don’t need to be a great planner and figure it all out – just humbly obey and do what He tells me to do when and where He tells me to do it.

It has always been this way. Always! I love what an unknown author wrote ….

“Moses stuttered.
David’s ego was bigger than his armor.
John Mark was rejected by Paul.
Hosea married a prostitute.
Amos thought fig-tree pruning was a homiletics class.
Jacob was a liar.
David had an affair.
Solomon was too rich.
Abraham was too old.
David was too young.
Timothy had ulcers.
Peter was afraid of death.
Lazarus was dead.
John Mark was naked.
Jesus liked to hang around with trouble makers and troubled people.
Naomi was a widow.
Isaiah had a branded tongue.
Jesus heard voices.
Paul saw visions.
Jonah ran from unwelcomed voices.
Miriam was the voice of gossip.
Gideon and Thomas both doubted.
Jeremiah was depressed, suicidal and always crying.
Elijah was burned out and liked to run around naked.
John the Baptist was a loudmouth who lived on locusts.
Martha was a worry-wart and subject to anxiety attacks.
Mary was lazy.
Samson had long hair and was short of self-control.
Noah got skunk drunk.
Did I mention that Moses had a short fuse?
So did Peter and Paul, who fueded with one another publicly.
I could keep going.”

Gives you hope, doesn’t it? Does me! We don’t need to be perfect to play a part in God’s plan of redeeming people. Just available!

How True, How True, How True

I really like what theologian (someone who studies Theo / Theo = God) Hans Urs von Balthasar states, “We generally find it easier to understand what is complex; what is simple is too demanding.”

The Christian faith is simple – not simplistic, not shallow, actually quite profound – but simple. It can be understood by rich or poor, educated or uneducated, young or old. It makes sense in every culture, works in every culture and can be shared in a straightforward manner so that anyone and everyone can understand it should they care to listen . And, if they take it personally and come under conviction from the Holy Spirit, receive it.

We have a tendency to make the Christian faith very complicated. For example – ask someone who is a born again believer to share with you the Gospel. You will be amazed at what is said and how it is said. You will marvel at what is included in the presentation and what gets left out. I am always astonished – and continually ask myself, “Is this person really saved?”

Sharing the Gospel with someone is not as easy as it would first seem to be. Most of what people share when doing so is neither the Gospel nor simple. It is the Gospel plus something else (cultural Christianity) and shared in a way to make it hard to understand and thus more complicated and difficult than it should be.

Sometimes I think it is because we do not know the basic teachings of the faith or even the bare bones Gospel well enough and so it comes out all complicated and mixed up – not in a straight line that others could actually understand.

Sometimes it is because people know the Gospel well enough but they have not practiced it – hearing themselves speak it out loud so that they are comfortable sharing it. So, when they do share it it sounds complicated because they have actually made it complicated because it literally comes out all messed up.

Sometimes it can be because they are not seriously sold on the fact that Jesus is the only way to enter Heaven and so when they share they are being apologetic and tolerant and understanding of everyone else’s beliefs and feelings and so fail to communicate that Jesus is the only way.

And still other times we hum and haw because we don’t want to share the Gospel in a short and straightforward manner because we might appear narrowminded. Folks, it’s okay to be narrowminded when you are right.

And, of course, sometimes it sounds complicated because we fail to communicate in the “language ” of the culture.

Who knowns, maybe we are just out to impress people.

No matter the reason the final outcome is the same – people do not hear the Gospel in a simple way.

But, if they did – remember, “…what is simple is too demanding.” They still might reject the Gospel because although it is simple – it is demanding. In fact, it demands total obedience and faithfulness to the truth of the message. It demands that you embrace change and risk. It asks you to be courageous enough to be radically different than the world in which you live. It teaches that you are to love absolutely everyone unconditionally regardless of what they have done, are doing, or will do. It demands that you die to self and live for Jesus. It demands that you make Jesus Lord and not just Savior. It demands that you take up your cross daily and follow Jesus so He can make you a “fisher of men” so that you can then share the Gospel simply with others who have yet to hear the Good News.

Many have the faith and the basic Gospel so mixed up and confused with the cultural norms in which they live that it has become very complex. But, what was true in the day of my theologian friend is no longer true. Because of the lack of a Christian consciousness in today’s generation few are understanding the basic good news even when it is made to sound complex.

Today simple is always better. The simplier the better.

Jesus Did Not Come to Please You

The officials of a railroad, disturbed because commuters neglected to close doors in winter weather, put up signs that read, “For the comfort of other passengers, please close the doors.” The doors stayed open. The poster was changed to read, “Please close the doors for your own comfort.” The doors were closed.

This is the world in which we work as ambassadors for Jesus (we are sent out on a mission into this world – missionaries). It is a very self-centered world where it is every person for themselves – or a dog-eat-dog world – or a mad rat race with everyone trying to win so they can be #1 rat. This understanding of basic human nature helps us to also understand why the best selling stickers at the Universal Studios complex in California reads, “It’s all about me.” People really believe that it is all about them. Again, helps you to understand why the number one selling magazine in South Africa is entitled, “You.”

The world states that “it is all about you.” However, the Christian faith declares that, “it is all about You, Lord!” The gospel is not about you. The cross is not a big plus sign for things that get added to your life because you believe. God didn’t send Jesus to please you; God sent Jesus to help you please God. The world defines the good life in a self-gratifying way. Christians know that the “good life” is a God-pleasing life.

Paul understood this … “I have not come as a great philosopher; I did not come for great arguments. The only thing I have to offer is Christ Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). So, Jesus and the Christian faith are not about you – it is about Him. It is not what He can do for you but what you can do for and with Him. The Church is not for you – it is for the non-believers to whom we are to reach out. It exists, like no other group, for its non-members.

So are you reaching out and opening the door for others or are you simply concerned that you have the door into Heaven open for yourself and that’s enough?

Me and a Mad Man

Salvador Dali who was an artist and did some of the strangest paintings while I was still in seminary back in the early 1970’s is quoted as saying, “The only difference between me and a madman is that I’m not mad.”

I am not “mad” but I am “crazy.” I am crazy in love with Jesus because He loved me enough to die on the cross of Calvary for me many years ago. I admit that the day I was born again I gave up being “normal” and began following Jesus as one of His disciples – the word is really “apprentice.” I am being trained by Him to become like Him – including learning His skills and approach to soul winning because an apprentice is to become like his master (character) but also should be able to do what his master does (skills) – and Jesus came to “seek and save the lost.”

“A disciple is someone who is crazy in love with Jesus because Jesus is crazy in love with them.” Dallas Willard

The aim of discipleship is a love relationship with God and life. Judas stopped being a disciple, not when he betrayed Jesus, but when he fell out of love with Him. Judas, like many of us, less loved Jesus than he loved himself in Jesus. Judas loved the “Jesus” he had created in his own head and heart – a god of his own creation – and not the real Jesus who must die and be raised again as King of an unseen but always present Kingdom. Not a military one like Judas wanted but a spiritual one as God had always planned. We cease being disciples when we follow after a god of our creation or an genda that is ours and not His. At that point we are no longer following Him – but are fulfilling our own desires.

We cease being disciples – or never really begin following Him – when we are not learning to and involved in the process and action of soul winning. Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men“. If we are not fishing – we are not following. If we are not following – we are not His disciples. It is that simple – and excuse me for being so blunt.

So, I guess the question of the day that needs to be asked deep in our hearts – are we truly (I mean REALLY) a disciple of the Lord and thus no longer “normal” or are we like everyone else – mad and madly doing our own thing – with Jesus supposedly along for the ride giving our life His approval?

Doesn’t work that way! He is either leading and you are following … or it is a simple no go. Are you mad or are you crazy. Madly following your own ways leading to Hell or crazy in love with Jesus, following Him and on your way to Heaven?

Today,

Apostolic Roundtable – 4

Today we will end our time at this meeting of the apostolic roundtable. The sessions end with a fellowship lunch after which we head out to our respective homes … some can drive back home, others will fly – as I will later tonight. I will be taken from the meetings here straight to the airport (3 hour drive) where I will buy supper for Bob who is with me (and our driver and host if available) and then once again board another airplane to head home. At least that is what I have planned.

I have been thinking about prophetic ministry a lot recently. My prophetic gifting has been seriously sharpened and deepened over the last year. And it has been encouraged by so much positive feedback about life-changing words that were received and acted upon. Praise reports are always a great encouragement. Here at the apostolic roundtable there have been prophetic words given but also there has been a “prophetic sense” and power to the teachings and sharings. Maybe a little less formal method of ministering prophetically but powerful nonetheless.

Speaking of prophetic ministry … always remember that prophecy is powerful because it has the following qualities:

 Personal prophecy is (highly) creative. It possesses intrinsic (built-in) spiritual power. This incredible power is first released or discharged into your life (the creative prophetic process) when the prophecy is first spoken (conceived) and continues (even intensifying) until the prophecy is wonderfully fulfilled (birthed). As a result, you may experience dramatic even radical change in the natural and supernatural realm. You may never, ever, be the same!

 Personal prophecy is highly active and literally brings into being active changes in your life, your circumstances and situation. It even changes you to help you to conform to God’s Word as spoken prophetically over your life.

 Personal prophecy releases God’s will and God’s power to bring about God’s will for your life. That is certainly wonderful news – that God cares enough about you and me to actually tell us His plans and purpose for each one of us and even supplies some of the details about what is going to be and become.

 Personal prophecy is (very) conditional. It is very dependent on your proper response for its fulfillment. Failing to meet any conditions (stated or implied) may jeopardize the ultimate fulfillment of your prophecy.

 Personal prophecy is (frequently) invitational. It is a type of supernatural request. It lovingly draws you to participate in God’s unique will for your life. By responding to this invitation, you are asking for permanent change to occur.

 Personal prophecy is (clearly) progressive. It is always moving forward, sometimes slowly, but it is always moving forward. It is always “at work behind the scenes.”

 Personal prophecy is (wonderfully) optimistic. It says good things about you. It anticipates and expresses the best: God’s ideal for your life. It does not expose, indict, or purposefully embarrass. It reminds you that you are one of God’s favorites.

 Personal prophecy is always postive and for your good. It never embarrasses or exposes your weakness but speaks and releases life and the answer to any weaknesses that you may have and does so in a postive, encouraging, uplifting and positive manner.

 Personal prophecy is (strongly) futuristic. It addresses God’s potential in you and for you— the “perfect” rather than the “actual.” It looks ahead and may not address current fact or present reality in your life. Yet, it plans for your success as a child of God.

 Personal prophecy is (by design) limited. In this sense it is not perfect; it is not all-inclusive. It is a limited New Testament gift with a limited application. Still, it is a powerful gift from a generous God –
a much needed gift with the power to transform your life

What an amazing gift He has given His children today!

Azerbaijan

History of Azerbaijan

Archeological excavations in the territory of Azerbaijan Republic revealed patterns of rich material culture related to the first human settlement. Based on the abovementioned the territory of Azerbaijan has been referred to the areas of first human formation. Most ancient archeological and paleontological materials recently found in the territory of Azerbaijan lead us to believe that men first settled here 1.7-1.8 million years ago. Read more

Apostolic Roundtable – 3

It is Monday and the apostolic roundtable here in Elkhorn, Indiana is in full swing with a complete day and evening of worship, teachings, prayer, fellowship and the prophetic. Pictured is Bill Lewis, a great man of God, who is one of four apostolic leaders who call these twice-a-year meetings which we are attending. As you can see the Kingdom is often a topic of our discussions and prayers. Apostles tend to be very Kingdom-minded … a wider view than simply the local church.

This morning I got up early – a decent accomplishment considering the length of the day yesterday – and spent several hours in God’s presence and God’s Word before heading out to breakfast and the first session with these tremendous men of God. It was great. When I am home and have my personal study available (not an office but a study) I have a routine of going into my study and spending time with the Lord. I rise very early regardless of the time I arrive home the night before and value this personal time with the Lord. I spend time listening to Him and telling Him of my concerns as I seek insights into His will and what He wants to do in me and through me in this ministry. And, I spend a great deal of time in God’s Word as I read and study these precious Words that “are spirit and they are life” as Jesus said.

But, when on the road ministering, this gets all messed up especially when overseas. Late nights, long hours of ministry, reviewing teachings for the whole day (usually three of four different ones), on-the-spot changes to schedules, and added meetings with elders and pastors can really mess up the rhythm. You work hard to get 30 minutes of quiet and simply try to be refreshed and revitalized spiritually for the day ahead. Not quality time to build the relationship you have with the Lord – more business oriented and pragmatic than personal and relational. This of course is draining and can be damaging to a person’s relationship with the Lord.

So, here at the roundtable where I am not responsible for ministering – where I am in receive mode and not ministry mode – I am enjoying some personal time with the Lord simply sitting in His presence and fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit (see 2 Corinthians 13:13). It has been precious and very powerful. God has spoken to me about our relationship, He has revealed some areas that I need to be working on and has, as well, spoken some things to me about our ministry overseas and its potential to bring major change to the face of the Kingdom and the Church in a number of nations. Refreshing, powerful but, at times, overwhelming as God’s plans are always amazingly large and powerfully life-altering and far greater than anything you ever could think or imagine. Always faith-stretching.

It is good to be here and I appreciate the fellowship and sharing times with these apostolic men. However, the time with the Lord is also really precious and has been very good for me as well. I look forward to being back home in another few days and getting back into a more stable rhythm for a month before heading overseas (Kazakhstan) once again. My priority must always be my relationship with Him who gives me life and liberty.

Apostolic Roundtable – 2

One of the keys to ministry and life today is prophecy. And, here at the apostolic roundtable in Elkhorn, Indiana this ministry is very important to our gathering of apostles. We are looking to hear the heart of God the Father. This, of course, is the nature and purpose of this gift that the Holy Spirit gave the Church over 2000 years ago and that still functions powerfully today.

This morning we attended a local church and were ministered to by both the worship and the teaching. As teachers of the Word we too need to be fed and so it is good, once in a while, to hear a live teaching in a local church. Most of us who teach God’s Word end up listening to teachings by CDs and DVDs and via the internet. But, believe me, there is nothing more exciting to a believer than to be in God’s presence in a local assembly and be part of live worship and the teaching of God’s Word. We were refreshed and encouraged.

After many hours of fellowship and a meal with all the men together we will be gathering for our first session tonight (Sunday) when worship will be a major component of the evening – as well as prayer and prophecy. We have travelled here from many nations and together we will listen to the heart of the Father for His people worldwide, in the countries represented (usually 4 or 5), and for our own Networks and churches. As well, if time allows on this first evening, we will have personal prophetic ministry as many of us could use a fresh touch and a fresh word from the Lord.

As one who travels internationally and ministers prophetically to many pastors and leaders of churches I know how important the prophetic ministry is to leaders. I am expectant that the Lord will want to speak to my situation and the expanding ministry we are facing in Eastern Europe as more and more opportunities (and resulting oppostition) present themselves. I am looking forward to my turn “in the chair” as trusted and seasoned prophetic ministers (apostles) lay hands on me and speak forth a new and fresh word from the Lord.

The Bible states that “man does not live on (physical) bread alone but on every word that (in the Greek – continuously) proceeds from the mouth of God.” This is true for all believers as well as those who travel and are constantly giving and giving… This will be a time to receive and I look forward with enthusiasm to hearing the voice of my God through the ministry of men I trust and love. It will be life-changing and powerful – could it be anything less considering it a word from the heart of God the Creator.

Prophetic ministry is important because this is not only how God declares His will for our lives and ministries but the spoken work – a prophetic declaration – is how God releases that will and the creative power needed to bring it to pass. All prophecy is creative and powerful, changing circumstances and situations, not to mention the heart and life of the recipient, to come into line with the spoken word. The Word of the Lord is fixed and the person receiving it is the variable. So, being ready to receive a word from the Lord means being ready, as well, to change and grow in the things of the Lord. I am ready!

As always – your prayers are greatly appreciated and if you would be so kind as to include all 30 men in your prayers today and through to Wednesday morning (when everyone should be back home safe and sound). Thanks!

Apostolic Roundtable – 1

In the Book of Acts we see in Chapter 15 that the apostles of the early church come together to discuss the life of the Church and the direction it wasand should be taking. There were a number of prominent issues that needed to be dealt with as quickly as possible and the discussions went on for considerable time as everyone had opportunity to have their say. The issues were discussed and then James, the leader of the Church in Jerusalem and an apostle, stands up and declares that “it seems right to the Holy Spirit and to us…” and the matters under discussion were agreed upon and future direction was set for their ministries and the Church.

Today – Saturday to Tuesday I will be in Celina, Ohio and Elkhorn, Indiana at a meeting of apostles. Yes, another trip – and several more flights and airports – This apostolic roundtable discussion, though not on par with the one in the book of Acts, is just as important for the future of a number of networks and ministries. We will meet and pray together. Worship will be a vital part of each meeting. We will listen to God and to each other. Together we will look at what the Lord is saying and decide what “seems right to the Holy Spirit and to us.” Some of the leaders will come prepared to teach and share what the Lord has placed on their hearts – and discussion will follow each presentation.

Men of God – apostles – from numerous nations sharing a number of days together – praying, listening, learning, worshipping, fellowshipping together and building relationships. Men of God representing many different ministries and various streams in the Kingdom but knowing we are all flowing into the same river – the River of Life. Men who are hungry for God and committed to what He is doing today in His Church, the Kingdom and the world. Men who are willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” And, over the years they have done just that – paid the price and travelled around the world sharing the Gospel.

I would greatly appreciate your prayers for these few but precious days. I travel on Saturday – meeting with these men starting Saturday afternoon as one of the main leaders picks me up at the airport in Dayton, Ohio. We will be with them right through to supper on the Tuesday when we, once again, head to the airport for several flights we need to take to arrive back home. Pray for good health, good weather, safe travel and that this would be “a time of refreshing in the presence of the Lord” for me and all the men involved. As well, pray that the Lord will speak to each person involved and through them to many churches of the various networks represented.

I am honored that Bob MacDonald from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan will, once again, be able to attend representing our nation and the network he and I work together in as apostles. He and I will also be travelling together to minister in Kazakhstan in mid-November and that too needs to be supported in prayer even now.

Your prayers are greatly appreciated – and, never doubt, they are powerfully effective and we are living proof of that fact.